The Key to A Fulfilling Life: Described in One Word

My friends and I agreed to each write a piece on what we thought was the most valuable personal quality, interested in how we’d all answer.

This was my response.

Go to a mirror. Lock eyes with that creature in front of you.

You’re a looker, there’s no doubt about it — but what’s within the fleshy vessel. What’s your shtick? Your value? Your most important personal quality?

Hold onto the first thing that comes to mind.

Now, imagine your friends and family next to you. And next to them, your idols — the people who inspire you, perhaps there are some high profile figures.

It’s quite a miraculous sight. I mean, let alone the sheer size of this big ass mirror — we’ve got a whole line of your life’s important people side by side.

Now ask yourself — what’s their shtick? What makes each one of them valuable?

Now, in light of their influence, generally speaking — what is the most important personal quality to have? You can only pick one.

I well and truly guarantee there’s no universal answer. I mean, fuck, it’s arguably the most subjective question I could ask.

To experiment, I ran a quick test on a few friends. I asked them what the most important personal quality was, giving them a few seconds to answer.

Their answers all differed: loyalty, integrity, confidence, communication.

All important.

But what makes those qualities the MOST important to each of them? What shapes their individual judgment?

Is it as simple as our pre-conceived notion of the ‘ideal person?’

You know what I mean, like our pre-rehearsed answers to the ‘best quality you have’ question in a job interview. The shit we spit out because we’re convinced it will make us the most desirable candidate.

Alternatively, it could be the key aspect of our personality that attracts friends and lovers. (Ideally, it would be the kind of quality to include in a bio to maximize matches).

Or maybe it’s the key quality in people that we’re attracted to? That we value?

When it came to me sitting down trying to manifest my own personal answer in words, to be honest, I was stumped.

I had my mirror, and my imagined line of personally influential people. I had keywords running around in my head — passion, confidence, compassion, self-awareness.

But I couldn’t locate the MOST important quality. I couldn’t find the ingredients to make the word to describe it.

So I did some research. Read and watched a bunch of stuff.

And I found it. I found the word that, for me, describes it.

Are you ready? It’s fuckin juicy.


Yes. That syllable tripping, marathon of a word is my choice.

And it’s a word used by Parker Palmer in a brilliant Commencement Address on, what he describes, are the pillars of the wholehearted life.

Be reckless when it comes to affairs of the heart.’


‘Fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you.’


His words resounded with me intensely.

It was a wonderful description that to me, highlighted what a fulfilling life was.

By offering ourselves — our gifts, our visions, and our heart — generously and fully to the world, we understand how little we know and how easily we can fail.

Wholeheartedness allows us to cultivate a beginner’s mind — to embraces all aspects of life; especially its unknowns, its not sures and its what ifs.

Wholeheartedness encourages inner-wholeness — to embrace our weaknesses. And it calls us to extend that courtesy to others through empathy.

Wholeheartedness imbues passion. And it’s a quality that alleviates suffering.

As Palmer ends — ‘daily, keep your death before your eyes.’

You’re not going to die saying ‘I’m sure glad for the self centered, self-serving and self-protective life I lived.’

Be reckless. Take life by the balls and own it. Love it with that whole big aortic pump of yours.

That’s what’s most important.



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